I haven’t seen Jaws, so a fish pedicure sounded good.
“Are they piranhas?” asked my colleagues.
Beautician Julie Grieve at The Wynd, Kelso was the first in the Borders to set a fish-pedi service up and invited me to have the hard skin on my feet nibbled at by small fish. Since then, another company has started up – there’s a market in cracked heels and nail hanks, who knew?
The photographer and I went last Thursday and found 400 garra rufa fish from Turkey in a couple of tanks down Oven Wynd. The little wrigglers are toothless but have abrasive gums, said Julie; they’re partial to dead skin only and they release enzymes that help your skin regenerate.
The Mary Reid graduate feeds them fish flakes morning and night. (A little sorbet between courses, my little piscine hoovers?) She bought the strongest filter on the market, and has a UV steriliser. The tanks are half-emptied and topped up nightly and the filters are cleaned weekly.
“It’s got to be very, very sterilised. I’ve done everything top notch, it’s important to do it properly, “ said Julie.
Fish-pedis are all the rage in Japan. Worldwide, celebs are at it and, not content with feet smooth as a baby’s bottom, have the little blighters buffing the rest of their bodies too.
People with trench foot or even athlete’s foot need not apply – and besides, really? No open wounds either, but the verruca-ridden can plaster up.
The little black fish can live up to seven years – most at The Wynd are about one – and they grow up to about two inches long.
It’s shaming that the nearest I’d been to a pedicure was walking the beach barefoot – Mini-Nemo and his mates were going to have their work cut out.
The beauticians wash your feet in a bubbling foot bath while the wee fiends circle. Even as I dipped my toes in I was still hoping for a genteel “Oh I couldn’t possibly” from at least some of them.
Instead, I peered down to a feeding frenzy: “Roll up your sleeves, lads, we’ve got a right one here! Ditch your diets, girls, we need all the help we can get!”
These wee blighters are keen but couldn’t they at least pretend I had some sort of foot care programme in position? The flipside is none threw themselves on to the carpet.
Meanwhile, Alastair the photographer was persuaded to dip his plates in the other tub. It was as unexpected as, oh I don’t know, seeing him wear pink. Peace didn’t reign.
“We could batter up a few and fry them like whitebait,” said Alastair, a trained chef.
“We’ve had really good comments and a lot of people are making regular appointments and seeing the difference, ” said Julie.
“What if you stood on the bottom of the tank?” said Alastair. And: “Do you think I could squash one between my feet?”
Apparently he wasn’t allowed to crash his Matchbox cars enough 50 years ago.
“Lots of men are quite interested in fish pedicures,” said Julie. The treatment, which tackles hard skin and calluses, isn’t perceived as being too feminine.
“It’s not a girly thing is it?” asked Alastair back in the office on Monday morning. He’d skipped the foot massage which followed. And destroyed the photographic evidence.
There are three options – all involve the basic 20 minutes in with the fish (it has to be that long to have any effect) – with a massage (£15), with a file and polish (£27) or with a full pedicure (£41). For anyone wanting their feet lover-friendly pronto, there’s a block of 10 sessions for £50.
It feels good, by the way, like bubbles breaking against your feet when the fish nibble and tingly and soft after.
More information from Julie on 01573 228833.